Courtney Elmer is CEO of The EffortLESS Life®, and every year she helps hundreds of entrepreneurs simplify and scale their business using a proven new approach to work smarter, not harder. She developed The EffortLESS Life® Method to help struggling entrepreneurs understand why stress, overwhelm, and burnout happen even when they’re pursuing their passion.
Through signature digital programs (The EffortLESS Life® Academy), live workshops, and weekend mastermind retreats, she guides entrepreneurs to become the EffortLESS CEO™ their business needs so they can generate consistent revenue, unlock their full potential, and create a bigger impact without working 24/7. Her podcast, The EffortLESS Life®, is ranked among the top 500 shows across the globe and is dedicated to helping people build a business that provides the freedom they’ve been looking for. Courtney’s thoughts on stress and business have been widely sought after by leaders and teams for Fox 8, Athleta, SheKnows, JustLuxe, Business by Design, and hundreds more.
- What is your backstory? What do you do for a living?
After overcoming an out-of-the-blue cancer diagnosis at age 25, I wanted to figure out a way to help struggling entrepreneurs succeed without feeling the need to work so hard, and thereby avoid the stress, overwhelm, and risk of burnout that prevents them from fulfilling their true calling and doing the important work they’re here to do in the first place.
I developed The EffortLESS Life® Method to teach entrepreneurs how to transform the way they work first by changing the way they think about work, and giving them clear steps to identify if the way they’re working right now is working in their favor.
Part of our core mission is to shift the cultural mentality that hard work and hustle is required for success, and to show entrepreneurs, particularly remote workers, how to create a greater influence, income, and impact while working less, without feeling guilty about it.
We help people understand that their business cannot thrive if they themselves are not protecting their energy and operating at peak performance. What’s the point of being successful if you aren’t physically present to enjoy it? As cancer taught me, life is too short. That’s one of the reasons I’m on a mission to show entrepreneurs how to scale and grow their businesses successfully without sacrificing their health, their mental sanity, or the things in life that are important to them in the process.
- How did you start your remote work journey?
I didn't exactly have a laptop in my hospital bed going through my cancer treatments and recovery, but I might as well have because that's when the remote work journey began within my heart. Once I finished my recovery process, I started building my business alongside my 9 to 5 job, knowing that ultimately I wanted to transition full-time to entrepreneurship as soon as possible. Like many people experience on their transition from a corporate job to entrepreneurship, there were a lot of fears that came up for me in the process, but the lack of freedom and constraint I felt working for somebody else, being tied to a desk from 9 to 5 everyday finally got to me and I said, “enough.” I took the leap of faith, stepped fully into my business, and never looked back.
In the beginning, I didn't know exactly where I was headed or what my business would look like in the future, but I did know that I’d regret not taking steps to fulfill the greater mission that was placed on my heart.
- What have you learned working from home?
Every day, I focus on managing my energy in order to achieve my top priorities for that day, instead of managing my time.
Time, willpower, and effort are all limited resources. When you focus only on managing your time, boosting your willpower, or doubling your effort, what will you get? Limited results. Everyone has 24 hours on the clock in a day. Willpower ebbs and flows. Effort is relative; if you depend on your effort as your competitive edge, someone will ‘out-effort’ you.
The key difference between those entrepreneurs who are always racing against the clock vs those who easily achieve their priorities on any given day is simple: those who do the latter don’t try to manage time at all. They focus instead on managing their energy.
Unlike time, where you spend your energy is something you have complete control over. You know when you feel tired, or run down. You know when you feel alive and energized. You know when you’re feeling sad, or happy, or confident, or bold. You can close your eyes at any moment and ask yourself, “how am I feeling right now?” in order to get a read on where your energy is at any given moment.
Those entrepreneurs who succeed in business, those who start from zero and go on to have massive success and create multi-6 and 7- figure businesses, are those who have become masters at managing their energy and managing their emotional state.
Counter-intuitive to what most people believe, running a successful business is NOT about working harder or “hustling more.” The key is to master the art of managing your energy, and developing the discipline to focus on the critical few things that actually move the needle (i.e., your daily priorities), and ignore the shiny objects and vanity metrics that most people chase.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost every part of the economy and our daily lives. What challenges have you encountered both personally and professionally? How have you weathered these challenges?
What challenges haven’t I encountered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? (lol!) You name it, we’ve experienced it: juggling kids’ schedules, juggling conflicting work schedules between my husband and me, dealing with the pain and uncertainty of having family members diagnosed with COVID, experiencing the pain and suffering of losing family members due to COVID… you name it, we’ve experienced it.
Aside from my personal faith and daily practice of gratitude and acceptance, the primary way I’ve weathered these challenges is by acknowledging that no two days are going to look alike right now. Acceptance has been a huge theme for me personally this year, so waking up each day knowing that even though I have a plan in place, my day might not go according to plan (and being okay with that), has been liberating. I refuse to set and hold an expectation that my day has to go exactly as I’ve planned, because a) I know 9 times out of 10, that likely won’t happen, and b) because by not setting an expectation like this, it allows me a lot more freedom within my day to focus on my top priorities and let the rest go.
I set my #1 priority for the following day the evening before I go to bed; this way, even if the whole day gets turned upside down for whatever reason, my brain can relax knowing that all I have to focus on is accomplishing that one task. This simple daily habit frees up so much mental energy and saves me time, and it gives my brain a break knowing that regardless of what the day holds, I know I’m still on track toward accomplishing my goals simply by focusing on that one thing.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has created an increased sense of fear, depression, and isolation. How have you been able to get through pandemic-related anxiety and stress issues?
Fear is universal. It's something we all experience to varying degrees. Fear can make you do and feel all sorts of crazy things... or can cause you to do and feel nothing at all. Fear both causes the majority of problems you experience and prevents you from getting the results you want.
What's tricky though, is that fear doesn't always show up as fear. Sometimes it shows up as anxiety, sometimes as depression, and sometimes a general malaise about life itself. Some days, fear can feel relentless and intense; other days, it feels like it’ll never go away. There are two things that I do personally to navigate fear and anxiety, and I coach my clients to do the same.
The first is to personify fear, and to ask myself “what specifically am I afraid of?” I imagine if fear itself was sitting in the chair in my home office having a conversation with me, what is it saying? Is it saying something I accept or reject? Recognizing that you have a choice in every moment is liberating. You can choose to accept or reject what fear is saying to you.
The second is recognizing that anxiety is the habit of crossing bridges before you get to them. I can’t remember where I first read that philosophy, and I believe that is true. I'm a spiritual person and believe in God. So what I like to do when I'm feeling anxious about an event that hasn't happened yet, is to visualize that event in my mind's eye and picture God somewhere in that mental picture. And regardless of whether or not you believe in God, you can adopt this practice too and either picture God, or a loved one or a mentor you look up to (living or deceased) and simply imagine them there with you: guiding you and comforting you, letting you know you’re safe. Allow yourself to feel the peace and relief that everything will be ok, and you're not alone.
These simple visualization tools are powerful and you can use them whenever you’re experiencing stress, anxiety, or fear, whether it's related to COVID, or not!
- What are your best mental health tips?
Mental health is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. After my own mental health journey battling a severe anxiety disorder in the form of anorexia and OCD in my late teens and early twenties, I would not be where I am today had I not sought help to learn how to heal from within and to protect my mental health long-term.
Your mental health is one of the critical pillars that supports the foundation of your whole life. Neglect it and it will crumble, bringing your whole life (and sometimes others’) down with it.
Yet when it comes to mental health, I have a huge problem with most of the “quick fix” mental-health tips that are offered today. This might come as a surprise since I’m CEO of a company focused on helping entrepreneurs scale their business without burning out, but the reason is because the "quick fix tips" that are touted as solutions to bounce back from burnout or enhance your wellbeing like, “take a walk,” “talk with a friend,” “meditate,” “journal,” “take a break,” ad infinitum, are just cheap Band Aids for a gaping wound in our rise-and-grind culture. They’re not the remedy for the real problem, which means they won’t permanently stop the bleeding.
First of all, when you’re an ambitious, self-driven entrepreneur you don’t need a list of more things to do— you hardly have enough time to get to all that you have going on as it is. Worse, none of these “tips to bounce back" help you understand the real reason why you're suffering from burnout, anxiety, or overwhelm in the first place.
Most entrepreneurs are asking themselves, “how do I recover from burnout” when the better question to be asking yourself is, “What can I do now to avoid burnout in the first place?”
My best word of advice would be to carve out 20 minutes of space just for you every day, whether this is first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee, a quick workout, a moment in the evening to yourself, or hiding out in the bathroom while the kids run wild around the house (hey, no shame!)
This is a challenge for most entrepreneurs and remote workers who are in the habit of constantly working, but when you make time for yourself first, you’ll remain your top priority and your wellbeing will not fall to the backburner. Furthermore, you’re better equipped to handle whatever challenges come up in the course of a busy day.
However, if you’re in a place where you feel helpless, alone, and aren’t sure where to turn for support, consider calling the SAMHSA National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP) or Googling “mental health resources near me” to find trained specialists in your area who can help you work through the challenges you’re facing so you can experience health, healing, and wholeness. Facing mental health challenges alone can feel scary, which is why with the support of a trained professional, you’ll make quicker progress so you can experience freedom and fullness of life once again.
- Before the pandemic hit, you may have worked in an office or corporate setting, but what do you foresee happening now? How do you see companies allowing employees to work?
My dream is that this permanently shifts the fabric of our society and that companies and corporations start prioritizing the health and wellbeing of their employees and families in practice, not just in their word. And, even if this disruption into “normal life” doesn’t take us quite that far, I do foresee more corporations introducing flex-schedules, optional weekly “work from home” days, an overall openness to remote work in general where there was none before, and a deeper understanding that with the right frameworks in place, productivity is possible (and even enhanced!) under remote-work conditions and/or flex-remote schedules than in an office setting alone.
- Do you believe that remote work is the future?
We’re at the brink of a new era: our old beliefs and systems are fading away, and new ideas are taking hold in ways they never have before. With so many advances in technology and more ways to connect with each other online than ever before, I do foresee a more consistent move in the direction of remote work, yes. It will take time, and there will always be some industries that require hands-on, in-person work, but I believe that remote work will gain not only popularity but also a permanent place in our everyday lives.
- How do you think COVID will shape the future of business?
You want to know my pie-in-the-sky dream, aside from remote work becoming more of the norm? My dream is that COVID moves us away from fear and isolation and into deeper connection with one another. Where we operate our businesses not seeking another sale, but seeking to help and serve another person. Where we run our P&L statements not seeking more profit, but seeking to further your mission, live by your core values, and create a greater impact with the work you’re here to do.
Overcoming cancer at 25 was a wakeup call I needed to set me on a different path; but it’s a wakeup call that not many people get the opportunity to experience — until now. If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that life is precious. Kiss the people you love. Go the extra mile. Stop rushing through life. Start embracing — and experiencing — the life that’s in front of you right now. When you prioritize this, the success, the freedom, and the fulfilment you’re exhausting yourself to achieve right now will be right there, in front of your face. Your business is a reflection of YOU… so if you’re happy, thriving, and living life to its fullest, your business will simply have no choice but to follow suit.
- How can readers get in touch with you?
I’m a real human, which means if you DM me on Instagram where I hang out most often and let me know you read this, you’ll hear back from me. Come find me there @CourtneyElmer_
If you want to learn how to work less, make more, and not feel a smidge guilty about it, check out my podcast The EffortLESS Life® (everywhere podcasts are found). And of course there’s always my good ol’ website where you can learn all about how we help busy entrepreneurs (is that you?) become the EffortLESS CEO™ their business needs to succeed, at CourtneyElmer.com
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